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The story of how I saved money, quit my job, sold my possessions, and set off to endlessly travel by bike around the world. My Plan

My 3 Books
I write, self publish and sell books about touring

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Places I have been
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How can I afford this?)

India and Neighbors
May 2010 to present

Alaska / Canada / USA
May 2008 to April 2010

New Zealand
Sept 2007 to May 2008

Australia
Sept 2006 to Sept 2007

SE Asia / China
Nov 2004 to Sept 2006

South America
June 2003 to June 2004

AZ, Mexico, and Central America
March 2002 to April 2003

How I started
The 5 years before I left


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 Written on the road as I travel around the world on my bicycle


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Equipment Pages Index

Introduction
How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth.
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair.
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours..
Bicycle Touring Saddles.
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips.
Kickstands
Sealed Cartridge Headsets

How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Camping
Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits
Solar Power for Camp

Clothing
Bike Touring Shorts

Electrical
Short-wave Radio
Computer
Internet
mp3
Bicycle touring lights

Books
Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures
Shopping


See My Videos Here



(see all 3 book)

The Steel Repair Myth

Can a Steel Frame Touring Bicycle Really be Welded While Traveling in the Third World?

see touring bikes for sale here

Have you ever heard the steel repair myth?  I first heard it in the mid 1970s.  It's an old story but the steel repair myth is stronger than ever today.  There are many versions and endless ways to tell it but it goes something like this:

Bike Tourist Paul is traveling in a third world or otherwise poor country on a touring bike with an aluminum frame.  Bike Tourist Paul either crashes, a frame weld fails, or his frame just mysteriously breaks. He is stranded.  Bike Tourist Paul looks around for someone who can repair his frame but aluminum welders are impossible to find in poor countries.  Bike Tourist Paul has to fly home, broken bike in hand, defeated, his dream trip ruined forever.

Touring Cyclist Ringo is on a bike tour in an undeveloped or third world country with a steel frame under him.  Cyclist Ringo either crashes, a frame weld fails, or his frame just breaks.  Cyclist Ringo was smart and chose a touring bike frame made of steel that can be welded in any country of the world.  Cyclist Ringo simply found the nearest guy with a welder (usually in the smallest of villages) and got his frame welded back together and was happily on his way.  Usually the story also contains a side analogy about how welders in the third world are extremely skilled.  The emphasis is that they have to fix things rather than replace them because of their limited means.

The moral of the myth is that a smart international bike traveler always rides a steel touring bicycle because steel frames can be repaired anywhere and an inexperienced bicycle tourist foolishly chooses an aluminum frameset and will eventually become stranded in some dark scary corner of the earth.

As with most myths and urban legends, there is an element of truth to the story.  In the 1970s, bicycle frames were almost all steel and known to break, especially under the heavy loads and hard use of bicycle touring.  I believe that many touring cyclists in the 70s had to get their bikes repaired on the road.  As aluminum bikes became popular in the 1980s and 90s, people naturally thought about the problems with welding aluminum in the undeveloped world and this is where the steel repair myth came from.  I am not a welder but I do believe that a steel welder can be easily found and an aluminum welder can not.  I personally would not attempt to have either type of frame welded.  I will explain why further below.

I know first-hand about broken steel bicycle frames in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  I have broke several different steel bike frames through the years but never an aluminum one.  I'm a big guy and I'm hard on my bikes.  In the beginning, I had my bikes re-welded by everyone from professional frame builders to my high school shop teacher.  None of my broken frames were ever repaired to feel like new again.  A bicycle frameset needs to be aligned perfectly or it will feel awkward or just "funny" to ride.  In fact the only frame I was able to ride in a race after being repaired was my 1974 Motobecane Grand Jubilee that my high school shop teacher put back together after school.  Looking back I think even this bike was unsafe because I was never able to hold my line in a road pack.  I was told by a professional frame builder that if your frame breaks then it usually means there is some structural problem with your frame (like rust) or you are pushing the design and materials past what they can handle.  Simply welding it back together will not solve these problems.

This experience tells me that the steel frame repair story is actually a myth.  I have been to many developing countries and seen first hand how they weld and build things in general.  They sand down the area, lay it on the sidewalk, "eye ball" it back into alignment, crank up the welder, and fuse it back together.  I personally would never let a backwater welder in my own country touch my bike much less a guy who usually makes furniture out of scrap rebar.  I hate to ruin the romantic picture of the skilled craftsman creating art from metal in the third world.  But reality is everything tends to be loosely thrown together in developing countries.  If it is that easy then why do top US frame builders fetch well over US$1,500 for building bikes? Would you really pay someone a dollar to fix your expensive touring machine?


This village welder in China is well practiced in repairing water buffalo carts but not expensive touring bicycle framesets.

Once I started working in bike shops in the 90s, I learned a better way to repair a broken frame.  Most bicycle manufactures have a generous warrantee on their frames.  This warrantee is usually valid 10 years or more from the date of purchase.  Usually a broken frame can be taken to any dealer of the bicycle brand and exchanged for a new one.  It sounds too good to be true, but I have done this exact thing several times with many different brands.  However, there is usually a stipulation that frames can only be warranteed by the original owner and that welding a frame usually voids the warrantee.  Often in the fine print the warrantee stipulates that you can not have attempted to repair the frame and sometimes you are not allowed to paint it.  Please read the full warrantee on your touring bike, including the fine print.  It is far better and cheaper to warrantee your frame than have a backwater welder botch it and void your warrantee!

The world has changed a lot from the years the steel repair myth was true.  Global priority shipping is far reaching and extremely fast.  DHL, Fed Ex, and sometimes UPS offices can be found in the major cities of even the poorest of countries.  It is a necessity in the new global economy.  I had tax paperwork and MSR stove parts sent to a Fed Ex office in Cambodia without any problems. 

Both aluminum and steel frames have evolved to the point that they rarely break.  Small production steel frames are better than ever but also are now very expensive.  Aluminum bikes had trouble when they first appeared on the market but now they have been refined to the point where problems are rare.  I have not broke either type of frame in the past several years and this must be why manufacturers are not losing money with generous warrantees.

If either type of frame did break it would be a shame to have your repair attempts result in a poor ride and voiding the warrantee at the same time.  It is much better just to take a bus to the nearest major city and overnight the frame to the manufacturer and wait a couple of days for the new one to arrive.  In most countries, except the USA, it would be rare to be on a road that did not have a bus pass by frequently.  In the USA, bicycles have to be boxed to put on the bus but in developing countries it is customary to flag down a passing bus, throw your bike and gear under or on top, and be on your way.  The ultimate sag wagon costs very little to ride!


The bikes below are sold online and shipped to your address.  Online bikes are a very good value but hard to find so I have rounded up my favorites.
Shop All Touring Bicycles Here

   
This is the type of bike I have done most of my traveling on.  Great for road and off road with an agile geometry and accepts wide or narrow tires.

REI brand Touring and Trekking Bikes

This is the bike I am buying next. I am tall and recently bought a mountain bike with 29er wheels and really like how it rides and would like to try this in my next touring bike.

Salsa Fargo
 

If comfort is your first priority check out these great bikes.  I have never toured this light but I know a ton of cyclist who like this style of bike.

Salsa Marrakes

 

The new breed of off road bike packing and snow bicycle. I have never owned a bike like this but I bet someday I do.

Fat Bikes

 

Seasonal - Surly bikes are not always available on line but they are a great deal. 


Surly LHT touring bicycle

 

see more touring bikes here


Equipment Pages Index

Introduction
How Much to Bring and Weight
Some Advice About Advice
A Note to Perspective Sponsors and Gear Suppliers
(See more about Sponsorship Here)

START HERE for Touring Bikes and Commuting Bicycles
Custom Touring Bicycles and Bike Upgrade Buyers Guide
Bicycle Touring Frames 
The Steel Repair Myth
Steel and Aluminum Derailleur Hanger Repair
Bicycle Touring Wheels
Phil Wood: The Best Bicycle Hubs

Panniers / Bike Bags
Cargo Trailers Vs Panniers
Tires for Bike Tours
Bicycle Touring Saddles
Women's Specific Bike Touring Saddles
Brooks Leather Touring Bicycle Saddle Care and Conditioning
Bike Computer
Touring Handlebars, Bar Ends, Adjustable Stems, and Padded Grips
Kickstands
Sealed Cartridge Headsets
How to prevent flat tires
Bike Route Trails and Maps

Camping
Buying Camping Equipment
Tent and Ground Cloth
Sleeping Bag
Sleeping Pad
Camp Stove
Pots and Pans
Water Filter
First Aide Kits

Clothing
Bike Touring Shorts
Helmet
Bike Shoes

Electrical
Short-wave Radio
Computer
Internet
mp3
Bicycle Touring Lighting Systems
Solar Power for Camp

Books
Packing list
Pictures of Equipment Failures
Shopping

 

 

eXTReMe Tracker

 

Steel Touring Bike Repair and Welding While Bicycling in the Third World

 

Bicycle Touring
Tips & Advice

- Bike Stuff
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Touring Bicycles
Panniers
Racks
Saddles
Tires
Lights

Fenders
Tools and Spares

Tents
Sleeping Bags
Camping Mattress
Camp Stove
Water Filter
Pots and Pans
First Aide Kits
Solar Power
Bike Maps
Preventing Flat Tires

Bike Computer
Cargo Trailers
Kick Stands
Pedals
Handelbars/Grips
Headsets
Commuting Bikes

Camp Shower/Toiletry Bag

Lights

Helmet
Bike Shoes
Bike Touring Shorts

Stealth/Free Camp

What I Have Learned On The Road

Dreaming of Endless Travel

Injustice of Poverty

Much MORE Gear Here!

Sponsors (how?)


Cycle Touring Racks

Tents and ground cloths
Sleeping Bags
Camping Mattress Pads


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